Alan Scotthorne has had a blistering year on commercial fisheries, including some big wins on snake lakes. We join him at Tunnel Barn Farm to see how he works his magic with two match-winning baits
Commercial canals and narrow, snake- type lakes have sprung up all over the country and are a really popular choice for match anglers. They offer good fishing within pole range and lots of smaller carp and F1s tend to be the dominant species.
At this time of year on well-established waters there are two baits that FIs and small carp seem to crave: meat and worms. These seem to take over from more traditional pellets and maggots and account for lots of larger bags, particularly after spawning lime. The fish often need a good feast t< > build themselves back into pristine condition after the stresses of spawning, but sometimes feeding on an angler’s bait is the last thing on their minds.
It has been said that worms might mimic the spawn of the silver fish in these well-stocked waters. Both the carp and F1s certainly gorge on spawn once the silvers have gone through / their motions. I personally think it s mure about the higher protein and nutritional food value in these two baits that make them so irresistible in summer. This might explain why coarse pellets with their lower feed value become less desirable.
Worms are probably the easier of the two baits to get to gnps with. Once eaten, this big and soft hook bait is not tweeted as quickly as meat due to the fact that it is a live offering. You’ll find that bites are much easier to connect with when using worms on the hook, with the added bonus of being ab:e to get away with slightly heavier books and line. Its, therefore an ideal bait to build big weights of fish. It’s also a bait that rarely comes off the hook, so when you are fishing the long pole to tar•bank swum. the law of averages says you will come back with a fish more often.
Of course, worms can work anywhere from the far bank to the nearside bank, but in this feature I want to concentrate on using them right across in shallow water, as the far bank is a vital area to target carp and Fis while it warm.
Preparing The Feed
You don’t need masses of worms and a 1kg bag can last you two matches or more which I will explain later. The first job is to finely chop the worms. I still find scissors are the best tool for me. Blenders, string cutters and so on don’t do the job like my old scissors and I like the worms cut finely into just 2mm to 3mm pieces.
I cut up two full 250m1 Drennan pots of worms, but these are neat worms that I have strained through a towel In remove the extra juices. I don’t like the blood in my feed and fish don’t eat liquid, they eat particles. It’s the actual worms they want!
Putting these in a bait tray I then add three pints of black sedge peat. The worms often come in this fine peat and if this is of a good quality I will use 50/50 of this and sedge peat as a good mix My sedge peat is sieved through a pinkie riddle so it’s nice and fine, lip this I then add a 250m1 pot of dry micro pellets and sometimes 50m1 of dead maggots to give you the option of a change bait during the session. I then add two 250m1 pots of lake water and mix it all together to produce a !sloppy paste.
I don’t want to overwet this mix as that can cause too much of a cloud, even in the shallow water across. I want it to go down to the bottom and then break up, just leaving a slight trail behind to draw in the fish. A big lingering cloud can create problems when the fish come shallow in the feed, causing foul hookers and a real nightmare.
However, if you are struggling for bites add a little more water to a corner of your tub and try feeding a sloppier mix every now and then, just to draw a few fish, before returning to the stiffer mix.
I also must mention this worm mix is fed via a medium pole-mounted pot. I fit this to the tip of my Acolyte pole so it’s about two inches back from the PTFE bush.
The Worm Rig
My rig for this far-bank swim is kept simple. I use one of my 0.2g AS4 floats, but as the water is so shallow across I like to trim the carbon stem down by an inch. These floats are almost indestructible and wherever there is far-bank vegetation to deal with they never let you down. The thick 2mm bristle also sits well when using worms.
The shotting is a spread bulk of four or five No10s an inch apart, or sometimes just a tight block when they are really having it. Below this I prefer a 6in hooklength of 0.12mm Drennan Supplex Fluorocarbon with 0.18mm normal Supplex main line. I am absolutely sold on fluorocarbon for hooklengths and the thicker main line is really durable and much harder to tangle when shipping such a short rig in and out. I rarely deviate from this setup as the rig is very versatile.
For the hook I use my favourite Kamasan B911 F1s in either size 16 or 14. The size 16 is great for smaller sections and F1s and the larger 14 is brilliant for bigger carp and if you are bagging with a decent-sized hook bait, such as a 2in piece of thick worm.
Above the float I like to keep this short and six to eight inches is best if the wind isn’t a problem. This short length means you can present the bait more accurately and helps you to hook more bites. This would be extended if the water was clear, but it is normally coloured in summer.
My elastic may surprise you in that I use light Drennan 6-8 Green Bungee. This is very soft, even through my short Acolyte Double 2 Kits. This is perfect, though, as it often allows me to tap some feed out of the pot immediately after a fish is hooked. This trick works well when there are a lot of fish as it’s better to ship out and catch off the previous feed rather than feeding as soon as you go across and getting immediate line bites. Heavier grades of elastic don’t allow you to do this as a fish can pull the pole away from the feed point immediately.
An ideal swim for this tactic is a flat shelf that’s 18 inches deep tight to the far bank. Sadly this can be a rarity and more often you are faced with varying depths and a sloping shelf. In this situation I try to find the right depth of around 18 inches but will feed just past the float, so the bait spreads down the ledge. This seems to cut down on liners.
Plumbing up can also be difficult in these situations, so I set the rig about two inches overdepth to compensate and also mark the pole at the butt end. These two tricks definitely help with accuracy on an awkward slope.
I mentioned earlier that a kilo of worms is ample for two matches fishing with the above plan. However, if the fishing is difficult, sometimes just feeding neat chopped worms can be a better ploy. When you are waiting for bites you can use a little more bait. This may seem a strange statement but when fish are actively looking to feed, potting in less bait is best. When fish are less active I find more bait is needed to attract them, plus you’re having to wait longer for bites.
During a session, trying double red maggot can often catch an odd extra fish, as can a change to a soft hooker pellet. Both are worth a try in lean periods for those extra fish that can make all the difference at the scales.
Normally I like to fish this tactic in just one place across and monitor what is happening. If I was feeding two swims and alternating them I fear I am just splitting the fish and never getting used to the fish’s feeding patterns. F1s in particular seem to come in blocks rather than constantly, so you could keep missing these quick runs of fish.
On the day of this feature bites came regularly and it was pretty obvious that the fish were on the worms from the off – but could a shorter meat line be quicker?
Fishing meat on the short pole also accounts for some really big weights on commercials. It’s a bait that can be thrown easily by hand and also works very well in deeper water.
But what dictates the distance to fish? The simple answer is the bottom. Nearly all lakes have silt on the bottom, so you need to be just off this and onto the slightly harder area, just up the nearside slope. This will cut down dramatically on the fizzing and bubbles you often get over silt that can make catching fish so difficult.
The right area can be found using a heavyish ¾oz plummet. Today I have dropped it in at five metres and it has stuck in the soft silt. I have then repeated this every half a metre back towards me and eventually located where the soft silt ends. This is when the plummet lifts cleanly out without any signs of sticking. This is my favoured starting point to feed meat. Today this spot was on just a top two kit plus the No3 section of my Acolyte pole, but it could be at any distance on other pegs.
The Meat Rig
My rig for fishing meat is again pretty simple and consists of a slim, wirestemmed 0.2g Drennan Carp 5 float on 0.18mm Supplex with a strung bulk of No11s and a size 16 B911 F1 hook to a 6in 0.12mm Supplex Fluorocarbon hooklength.
I also set this rig two inches on the bottom and feed it at the start with a medium pole-mounted pot of 6mm meat cubes.
As I start to catch on this swim I then begin to loose feed by hand, throwing just six to eight pieces immediately after hooking a fish. Once the fish is in the net I will then bait up with a 6mm cube of meat, then throw another six to eight cubes and follow them in with the rig.
What I’m trying to achieve is to get the hook bait to hit the bottom at the same time as the loose offerings. This works really well when you get it right and cuts down on liners, plus bites come instantly, upping the catch rate. Don’t ever try to get too many fish on this line at any one time, though, as the result will be missed bites and foul-hookers. If in doubt, lay off the feed until you have fewer indications, and that should hopefully result in more properly hooked fish.
It’s all about trying to get into a good rhythm and this can only come with experience and time on the bank. Quite often you can expect to catch bigger f sh much later on in the session on this short-pole swim and that will really up your final weight.
A venue like Tunnel Barn is a great choice for practising these skills and they will work on lots of other similar venues where F1s and small carp are in abundance. Get out and give these two baits a try. It really can be great fishing!